Logan Sargeant, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

Williams’ tyre woes worse than expected at Spa, say drivers

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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The Williams drivers were surprised to encounter excessive rear tyre degradation in the Belgian Grand Prix which forced them to pit more often than their rivals.

The pair failed to reach Q2 on Friday, though they did reach the second round in Saturday’s qualifying session for the sprint race. Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant finished 12th and a penalised 16th respectively in the sprint race, and in Sunday’s race their tyre trouble restricted them to 14th and 17th.

“It didn’t go our way, for sure. As a team we struggled a lot with rear degradation, in particular on that medium tyre,” rued Sargeant.

“It was just a really difficult car to drive today. Maybe it’s to do with the low downforce set-up that we went for, we just struggled to keep the tyres alive.

“I could see Alex ahead, we both had a really, really good first six, seven laps. But I think we left that first stop too late.

“That aside, we didn’t have the pace today. It was a frustrating day, and we weren’t expecting that level of degradation. We came in quite positive and it hasn’t panned out the way we wanted it to.”

Sargeant said they need to “definitely regroup, see what happened and try and come back better.”

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While most drivers preferred two-stop strategies, and a handful made just one, the Williams drivers were almost alone in coming in three times. Lewis Hamilton made three pit stops but his last was done in order to claim the fastest lap bonus point.

Williams’ drivers pitted three times due to their tyre struggles. “We had to make that call to go to the three-stop, just with the level of degradation we had,” said Sargeant. “It ended up giving us a better end result I think.

“I can’t really explain why we had that level of degradation. I’m not sure any of us can. So we’re going to have to dig into it and see why.”

Albon said he “knew the start was good”, as he climbed from 15th to seventh in five laps. However he was “almost surprised that I fell out of the points around the mid stint”. He pitted on lap seven, was in 10th once everyone else had pitted, and again after the second stops, but then started to lose more places.

“At the end of the stint there, just struggling with deg. It was a tricky race the whole race, because we were running that low downforce, which is great fun in some ways and in other ways, especially when you go through like sector two, it’s not that fun anymore. And it’s just degrading the tyres so much.

“We saw it already on the wet tyres, we predicted a lot of deg for us. But it was a bit of a wake-up call just how much deg we did have today, particularly on that medium tyre.”

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Trying to keep other cars behind caused Albon to put his tyres under even greater strain.

“To race the cars around me, I was basically having to over-push in sector two because as soon as I backed off one corner, as soon as I tried to manage the tyre in the places you need to – turn 10, turn 11, turn 12 – I was immediately under fire. I almost immediately got overtaken by the car behind.

“So I had to almost over-push the tyre to stay in front. And then it’s a vicious cycle because you then degrade more, and you’re already trying to save the tyre but you’re not allowed to, you don’t have the freedom.”

Albon thought Williams “would do better” at Spa-Francorchamps, and understanding their struggles will be key for when they visit Monza – another low-downforce circuit that Williams predicts would suit them. “That’s really going to be our next best chance to score points,” he said.

The mid-race rain came as an unexpected relief, Albon added. “When it started to rain, it cooled my tyres down, and it gave me more grip than I had in the dry,” he explained. “So I actually caught [drivers who passed me] back up again, and actually had a resurgence of pace, which just shows you how much overheating we were doing.”

Albon lap times comparison

How Albon’s lap times compared with those of Esteban Ocon, the driver ahead of him when the rain began:

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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3 comments on “Williams’ tyre woes worse than expected at Spa, say drivers”

  1. Coventry Climax
    1st August 2023, 18:20

    By the sound of it, Albon has a better understanding of cause than Sargeant.
    To solve it however, will be a different matter, because they will need to run some downforce and still register decent speed and competitive laptimes, and not just on a handful of circuits but on all of them. I hope Williams gets on top of it soon.

    1. Given how much more experience Albon I would expect him to have better understanding.

      1. Coventry Climax
        2nd August 2023, 16:32

        Yeah, thought of that, and he still has some time to get better I suppose. His racing improves, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
        It’s a bit funny though how he’s constantly hiding behind his team, using ‘we’ all the time. He’s hardly in the position to use the royal plural form. To me that tells he really has no clue, and it is a big part of F1 these days, that he probably should know about?
        Albon mostly uses ‘I’, except for when the team analised the data, which is a ‘we’ by definition I’d say.

        Let’s hope it’s just the experience difference alright.

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